Observation Instruments for Imaginary Geographies


Session Title:

  • Technology (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • Observation Instruments for Imaginary Geographies



  • Observation Instruments is the Title: of a series of interactive time‑lapsed video installations that investigate our perception and re‑imagination of Canada’s Northern landscape. The work is derived from a database containing images captured by a found webcam located in Kimmirut, Nunavut, as well as weather statistics. Started on June 21st, 2010 (the longest day of the year) the database, which grows according to an automated process developed by the author, now contains over 100,000 images. The installation consists of time‑lapsed projections of this image archive, in which the visual compositions can be filtered and altered according to time, weather data, or geometric parameters accessible via tangible electronic control panels (the instruments). These devices provide the viewer an opportunity to examine, contemplate and re‑imagine the Northern landscape, taking them on a virtual journey to a distant and unfamiliar place. Through the multiplicity of a single image, the viewer is given a narrow perspective on this remote land, while at the same time exposed to a variety of ways of seeing. This paper will discuss how the work proposes a mediated experience of a locale from the constrained lens and perspective of a distant outsider. Evoking notions of solitude and encroachment, the fragility of settlement and the powerful forces of nature, the work introduces us to a region of the country few of us have ever experienced. The North, or at least the Idea of it as developed by Canadian writer and composer Glenn Gould in his Solitude trilogy, is indeed a ‘convenient place to dream about’. The work also examines the role of the webcam as an unbiased and unrelenting image collector, unimpeded by aesthetic judgment, as well as the use of natural data to define structure in time‑based media.